The historic town of Guimarães is associated with the emergence of the Portuguese national identity in the 12th century. An exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, its rich building typology exemplifies the specific development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century through the consistent use of traditional building materials and techniques.
Historic Centre of Guimarães
© M & G Therin-Weise
Justification for Inscription
Criterion ii Guimarães is of considerable universal significance by virtue of the fact that specialized building techniques developed there in the Middle Ages were transmitted to Portuguese colonies in Africa and the New World, becoming their characteristic feature. Criterion iii The early history of Guimarães is closely associated with the establishment of Portuguese national identity and the Portuguese language in the 12th century. Criterion iv An exceptionally well preserved town, Guimarães illustrates the evolution of particular building types from the medieval settlement to the present-day city, and particularly in the 15th–19th centuries.
The early history of Guimarães is closely associated with the establishment of Portuguese national identity and the Portuguese language in the 12th century. Guimarães is of considerable significance by virtue of the fact that specialized building techniques developed there in the Middle Ages were transmitted to Portuguese colonies in Africa and the New World, becoming their characteristic feature. It is an exceptionally well-preserved town illustrating the evolution of particular building types from the medieval settlement to the present-day city, and particularly in the 15th-19th centuries.
Guimarães dominates the fertile plain that extends towards the sea. It is situated on the most important medieval communication routes connecting Monçao and Braga with Viseu and Caminha, the seat of the Portuguese Counts from the 10th century. This urban settlement developed as a result of two forces, a monastery in the south valley, and a fort on the north hill, surrounded by two rivers, until they were brought together within a single enclosure.
The historic centre is formed by a large number of stone constructions (950-1498). The period from Renaissance to neoclassicism is characterized by noble houses and the development of civic facilities, city squares, etc. The eclectic and industrial periods and modern expansion (1926 until today) include some changes, although the town has maintained its medieval urban layout. The systems and building types have evolved over time. The residential buildings are characterized by the use of two construction techniques, one dating from before the 16th century (taipa de rodízio ), a half-timbered structure, which mixed granite with a structure in timber and a filling of sun-dried brick, using clay mortar. The other (taipa de fasquio ), which came into use in the 19th century and is still practised today, was entirely in timber. From here this technology was exported to other parts of the world.
The monuments include the medieval castle, built on the site of the first fort of the 10th century. The present construction was built from stone, begun at the time of Afonso I and continued with various modifications in the following centuries. The building is an austere crenellated structure with towers, designed for defence. Part of it was demolished in the 18th century and since then it has been subject to restorations. Close to the castle, there is a small Romanesque church, São Miguel do Castelo, ruined in the 19th century and restored in the 1920s. The church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira was founded in the 12th century on the site where the first monastery had existed some three centuries earlier. It was completely renovated from 1387 to 1413, with three naves and a wooden roof structure, according to the Portuguese Gothic model. The cloister was added in the 16th century and the present sanctuary to the church in the 17th.
The Palace of the Dukes of Bragança is a large complex built from stone down the hill from the castle. The first construction dates from 1420-22, most probably under French influence. The building was conceived as a symbol of the pride of the Bragança family. The building underwent various vicissitudes, serving as a military headquarters in the late 19th century. The Town Hall, in the square in front of the church of Nossa Senhora, dates mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. The palace, primarily in stone, has one main floor with large doors opening to a balcony along the main facade. The ground floor is characterized by open arcades. In the same square, in front of the church, there is also a 14th-century Gothic arch, a monument commemorating the victory of Dom Afonso IV in the battle of Padrão do Salado.
The bourgeois houses of the 16th century have a ground floor in granite and the upper floors are built using the half-timbered structure of taipa de rodízio . The houses of noble families have often been an modification of a previous structure, and generally have their elevations built from granite as a sign of distinction. The typical houses of the 17th century continued using the same construction technique (granite in the ground floor and half-timbered structure in the upper floors - usually three). Another type of house of the same century was built with a peristyle and arcaded ground floor, and is usually found in public squares. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Guimarães was situated on the most important early medieval route of communication connecting Monçao and Braga with Viseu and Caminha, the seat of the Portuguese (Portucalense) Counts from the 10th century. This urban settlement developed as a result of two forces, a monastery and a fort, one in the valley, the other on the hill, surrounded by two rivers. The town thus dominated the fertile plain that extended towards the sea. The two focal points continued growing in parallel until they were brought together within a single enclosure in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The early history of Guimarães is closely associated with the forming of the national identity and the language of Portugal, being associated with the early Portuguese sovereigns. The region was given as a feudal property to the family that created the country in the 12th century. In 1139 Count Dom Afonso Henriques declared the independence of Portugal from León and took the name of Afonso I as the first king of the new kingdom. Because of the association of the family with the region, the monastery of Guimarães was transformed into a royal college, thus obtaining a primary institutional role in the country. It also became a pilgrimage place on the route of Santiago de Compostela because of an image of the Madonna that was considered to be miraculous.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Bourg developed a variety of activities, including the manufacture of cutlery and jewellery, the treatment of leather, and marketing of the goods. The production reinforced the position of Guimarães on the route between the coast and the inland. The establishment of Dominican and Franciscan orders outside the walls of the Bourg contributed to the beginning of urbanization extra muros, including an area for the treatment of leather close to the river Couros. The economic and social status of the town was recognized in the new charter granted by Dom Manuel in 1517.
The 18th century was a period of intensive construction activity, particularly marked by noble residences. It was also the period of the first urban master plan, though most of the implementation took place in the first half of the 19th century. There were also new access roads, which came to modify the medieval situation, establishing the basis for the present-day layout in the region. The medieval defence walls and gates, which had already lost their function in the 16th century, were gradually demolished starting from the 17th to 19th centuries.
In the 20th century the town expanded at an increasing speed owing to industrial development. In the 1980s the municipality recognized the importance of the historic centre of the town, establishing a technical office responsible for the strategies of conservation and rehabilitation. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation